Coleridge, the Lakes, and Ennerdale

ennerdale5 - Copy

From a letter to Robert Southey, 26th August, 1802

I was sheltered (in the phrase of the country, lownded) in a sort of natural porch on the summit of Sca Fell, the central mountain of our Giants, said to be higher than Skiddaw or Helvellyn, and in chasm, naked crag, bursting springs, and waterfall the most interesting, without a rival. When the cloud passed away, to my right and left, and behind me, stood a great national convention of mountains which our ancestors most descriptively called Copland, that is, the Land of Heads. Before me the mountains died away down to the sea in eleven parallel ridges; close under my feet, as it were, were three vales: Wastdale, with its lake; Miterdale and Eskdale, with the rivers Irt, Mite, and Esk seen from their very fountains to their fall into the sea at Ravenglass Bay, which, with these rivers, form to the eye a perfect trident.

Turning round, I looked through Borrowdale out upon the Derwentwater and the Vale of Keswick, even to my own house, where my own children were. Indeed, I had altogether a most interesting walk through Newlands to Buttermere, over the fells to Ennerdale, to St. Bees; up Wastdale to Sca Fell, down Eskdale to Devock Lake, Ulpha Kirk, Broughton Mills, Tarver, Coniston, Windermere, Grasmere, Keswick.

As a teenager returned on my own from the States to England to continue studying for A Levels [and get away from redneck America], I lived with a family whose parents had a beautiful home at the foot of Crag Fell in the Lake District. I was lucky enough to have a few Christmases there as well as other visits, and was taken for walks up many of the fells in the area, including the Ennerdale Horseshoe, though not all at once – such a beautiful lake and surrounds – as well as making solo walks out the back door of the house and up Crag Fell, perhaps also along Grike and Red Gill either way once at the top.

I still have occasional dreams where I am isolated in a huge mountainous area [it must be linked to this experience] and I have to get back/out of where I am and trek solo across that landscape to safety, whatever that is. It is always daunting but I seem to make it, knowing where it is I have to get to.

At the time I was studying Wordsworth and Coleridge at Ipswich Civic College, not in great depth, and as a young aspiring poet I had affinities with their love of nature and the pantheism of Coleridge in particular – hippie affinities, I guess, in one strong sense too. I remember writing descriptions of Ennerdale and climbing the fells and my teenager communing with the natural world around me. Very much earnest emulation, and I have no idea where these journals are, and that’s probably a good thing.


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